Beaches Brand for Target Markets

With so many beach destinations available, it really is the case of which one matches your specific needs. Each beach brands and then markets itself to a specific demographic first and then widens the scale by promoting how there is “something for everyone” there. Then there are the various reputations, which often sway different travelers either to or from a particular destination.

Back in the mid 90’s, much of the state of South Carolina’s annual tourism marketing budget was spent in the state of Ohio. I do not want to miss-quote the actual figure, but I believe it was something like 75% of allotted funds. As a college student, we would take trips from Charleston up to Myrtle Beach and notice that almost every out-of-state license plate was, in fact, from Ohio! Guess it worked! Myrtle Beach has both branded itself and built a reputation as an affordable family-friendly beach area with a host of attractions, great golfing, loads of entertainment, and a within a day’s drive of it’s largest domestic target markets.

In contrast, however, Miami’s South Beach brands itself as a whole different kind of beach destination. As a party like atmosphere where cocktails and music flow all night long, South Beach brands itself as a hotspot of fun with a strong connection to Latin America. Drawing the wealthy, yuppies, and international tourists, South Beach has the über-luxurious marine amenities to support their brand. Miami also attracts other industries (fashion and film, in particular) that help support the local travel industry.

So which beach is for you? These are just two of thousands of global examples. First consult your budget, decide how far you want to travel, the season in question, and what you enjoy most from a beach destination. Make a list, narrow it down, and then start using your favorite search engine to find the beach…. err…. BRAND that is best for you!

Take a look at this promotional video on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and notice how they feature and repeat some key drawing factors for tourism.

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Hospitality industry and the “element” behind branding green

A few years ago I was at the National Tour Association’s “Spring Meet” in Uncasville, Connecticut. Tour operators, suppliers, and destination management companies converged to discuss a number of industry issues. Hot then – and still hot now – is how to turn brands “green” (toward environmental sustainability), capture customer appreciation toward this, and reduce costs. That last bit was challenging in 2006; I remember one hotel sales executive saying that using bio-friendly washing detergent for linens was extremely cost prohibitive. I wonder where things have gone since then?

The trend to become green was and is not going to stop. In 2008, Starwood Hotels launched the “Element Hotels by Westin” brand in Lexington, Massachusetts. Element is the first major hotel brand to mandate all properties adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The hotels feature expansive natural lighting to reduce energy costs, public spaces and flooring developed from recycled content, smart in-room recycling techniques, water and waste reduction technologies, and even… get this…. the old paper “do not disturb” cards have been replaced with magnets! Smart and functional, Element is definitely part of the eco-chic revolution in hospitality.

The travel industry as a whole has lot of responsibilities: We have to protect and ensure safety of the consumer and ourselves, we have to provide value to the consumer; and we must move toward environmental responsibility in the products and services we provide. Consumers of all kinds are now choosing to patronize brands that reduce the impact on the world’s natural resources. So if you ignore your impact on Mother Earth, you might just lose a sale!

Will you come up with a new way that the travel industry can improve sustainability?

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Corporate Mergers – Where Do the Brands Go?

During the previous decade, the travel industry entered a period of Darwinism. Survival of the fittest became the reoccurring theme and that resulted in a number of large mergers. Acquisitions were not frequent due to frozen capital markets in the Great Recession and fear over where the global economy was headed. As the travel industry contracted and new brands emerged where the did the previous ones go? And what exactly happens to brand recognition during the merger?

Airline mergers are a great example because of their size and impact on the whole travel industry. Remember America West? They became part of US Airways. How about Northwest Airlines? They are now part of Delta Air Lines. Continental has recently begun is rolling itself into United Airlines.

While the airlines try to limit confusion during the conversion process, brand managers know that featuring the best of each individual brand often works best. For example, Delta took what they felt were the best parts of both Delta SkyMiles and Northwest’s WorldPerks and developed one that both client bases would enjoy. The new United is adopting Continental’s most recent livery while keeping the name “United” on their jets.

I think brands take their place in history and never really evaporate. Use the link below to see the Delta Air Lines family tree and the parts of it’s sum:

Delta Air Lines and the STAPLES Center – brand synergy!

Yesterday a press release was issued about how Delta Air Lines has entered an agreement with AEG to become the official airline of the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, official airline of the L.A. Kings, official partner of The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live, and will have rights to marketing in the L.A. Live complex. Whew! That is quite a mouthful of information for a one press release! What I find most interesting, though, is the impact of branding a brand like Delta Air Lines and STAPLES.

In the travel industry, perhaps it began with airlines promoting brand name coffee served on their flights? I’m not sure. But soon after we saw cruise ships starting to feature popular branded F&B outlets onboard like Johnny Rockets and Starbucks. Starwood Hotels has even created brands inside brands (see “Aloft – a vision of W Hotels”). I suppose that part of keeping brands fresh involves mixing other brands in to the advantage of both. Certainly but not limited to the travel industry, products need to be kept fresh and exposed to find and maintain relationships with new consumers.

Take this hypothetical example: John Doe just moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta to begin his career as a professor. In his new position he will travel to Asia often for research. He is an avid hockey fan and one evening goes to an L.A. Kings game to see his new home team play. At the STAPLES Center he notices Delta’s presence. In fact, he notices Delta’s presence all over Los Angeles and how they just began service to Tokyo’s convenient Haneda airport…. Back to the Kings game: Just after the 1st period, his assistant calls to report his laptop crashed. He glances up for a split second, and responds “Go to Staples and get a new one”.

The synergy of branding a brand or having multiple brands working side-by-side is – if nothing else – great exposure!

Press release with complete details can be found here:

Functional Branding at the Ames Hotel of Boston

As a young student at Johnson & Wales University, I had a professor in hospitality management who constantly chanted “the customer is king!”. That was not anything new or profound but the fact that he exclaimed the phrase so often has stuck with me. Taking this a step backward, in the travel industry, how do we even get the customer? When there are so many options for products and services in travel, brands need to reinvent and expose themselves frequently to capture attention and steady the flow of new customers.

This weekend I stayed at the Ames Hotel in Boston, a Morgans Hotel Group property which opened in late 2009. Having already experienced a number of the group’s fantastic hotels in New York City, South Beach, and London, I was very intrigued to see how they transformed the old Ames office building into a hotel. To my delight, the hotel rooms, lobby, and Woodward restaurant/lounge all had been designed with time-period artifacts of the 1890’s blended with modern luxury.

What prompted me to write this piece, however, are the items I found in my room above the mini-bar. Not only were the obligatory snacks available, but they also had brilliantly packaged branded winter hats, shirts, and even a CD entitled “Morgans Hotel Group 4”. When I checked-out of the hotel, new “Ames” hotel hat on my head, I wondered what kind of impact branded merchandise has on a venue’s marketing strategy? I feel that if the merchandise is functional and provides brand exposure it will work. People are walking billboards for brands and embracing this marketing technique definitely makes an impact….

Plus, with a hat this comfy and warm – I may be a walking advertisement until spring!

For a refreshing drink, delicious meal, or great overnight stay in Boston, please visit:

Branding the Great Smoky Mountains – Dolly Parton Style

A group, developer, and even celebrities have put many places on the map. Cities and regions have specific identities where people, over the course of history, have built the physical land into the destinations they are today. A relatively recent large-scale example would be Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Both the developers and the government (in many times a combination) have been driving traffic there by promoting Dubai as the opulent oasis of the Arab world featuring the tallest of buildings, most luxurious of hotels, and even an indoor ski mountain to beat the desert climate. Dubai takes every opportunity to upkeep it’s brand as a top spot for business and leisure travel.

Now let’s explore a place where celebrity has used their brand to put a region on the map. Not Hollywood, Las Vegas, or Orlando (does Mickey Mouse count as a celebrity?). I am thinking about rural Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Can you guess which celebrity made Pigeon Forge into a travel destination? Dolly Parton! She was born and raised in nearby Sevierville, Tennessee, and after reaching star status went back to her roots in 1986 and revived an old amusement park in Pigeon Forge. “Dollywood” ( now attracts millions of visitors each year and is the largest employer in the area. Numerous supporting hotels, restaurants, and other attractions are also adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dollywood is known for showcasing the unique crafts, music, and artifacts of the Smoky Mountain area.

Wildly popular herself, Dolly Parton’s brand has impacted the local Pigeon Forge community tremendously. She created a philanthropic foundation to help local schools and built a platform where local people can work and be proud of what their region has to offer. This is a great example of “which came first – the chicken or the egg?” Without Dolly there would be no Dollywood, but without the Great Smoky Mountain culture there may have been no Dolly Parton.

I am planning a trip to Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains in a few months and hope to get a closer look at her branding methods and the related impact on the region.

Take a look at this promotional video highlighting the 25th anniversary of Dollywood last year. Enjoy!

The win-win cycle of loyalty programs

A hot topic is the travel industry’s use of loyalty programs to foster and maintain consumer relationships while increasing their brand recognition and improving the organization’s bottom line. The frequent traveler quickly finds that earning points increases their “status” levels and leads to priority services. The organization then increases revenue by the traveler’s loyal spending. This cycle has fueled massive program membership among all parts of the travel industry.

I engage in the cycle and have made a point of enrolling in the programs where I intend to earn even just a few points each year. Keeping an account active varies by program, but generally it is not hard to keep your points or miles from expiring. Redemption is a completely different subject and can be tricky based on the traveler’s status and the availability of the product or service.

American Express has a program called Membership Rewards® which allows cardholders to earn points and then transfer them into a host of company’s individual programs. I have found this very useful because it allows me to deploy points at my choice. Another favorite program is the Delta Airlines Skymiles® program which allows partial payment of many published fares using mileage. For instance, on a recent trip to Key West, Florida, I was able to deduct $600 off a roundtrip first class ticket and only spent money on what would average as a coach class ticket.

Even the smallest of travel related organizations should develop a loyalty program. The advantage is that by having consumers become participants they can increase brand visibility, publicize changes to their product offering, and identify trends that impact future growth. Nothing is better than a repeat customer and each loyalty program administration must agree.

Do you have any comments on the topic? Any tips to share from either the industry or consumer perspective? Let’s get some dialogue started and learn from each other!

Check out this USA Today article for more great information and tips: